If there is any search for the holy grail of American politics, it is to find problems that can bring two-party politics and compromise back to Congress as a daily routine. Every now and then Congress surprises us with a bipartisan solution like it did in the debt ceiling vote at the end of last year, but it is still mired in the quicksand of hyper -partisanship on too many of the challenges facing our nation.
As deep and wide as the gulf between the two parties may be, there is one issue that gives hope for two-party politics and the good news is that Democrats and Republicans are coming together to address it.
This Christmas season in the second year of the pandemic served as a wake-up call to action. How many times have we visited a store or shopped online only to find that the perfect Christmas gift for someone special is not in stock or the delivery is delayed beyond Christmas Day? Or bear a significant price increase?
In a recent American Marketplace report on the NPR, Christopher Lowe, chief economist at FHN Financial, called shortage imported goods the driving force behind our current inflation problems.
Experts also cite capacity as the cause of our supply chain problems. Container ships were stacked on the California coast and in Boston as labor shortages caused by the pandemic made it difficult to unload goods in a timely manner. Many workers were made redundant during the pandemic to make workplaces safer, but too many have moved on to other jobs. The expedition suffered as a result. The Biden administration has helped speed things up by urging ports to expand operations with longer hours, but the supply chain will still need more time to recover.
The pandemic cannot take responsibility for all the headaches in the supply chain. The free trade mania that allowed China to enter the World Trade Organization without guarantees that China would play by the rules did not help. President Clinton’s NAFTA also did not promise that the manufacturing sector would not suffer at home. It made.
Considering how much of our manufacturing went overseas, it’s no surprise that China is responsible for most of the manufacturing and shipping downturns. So many of the products we buy as Christmas gifts come from China, including books, 90% of which are published in China. Add paper and glue shortages to the supply chain equation and books join hundreds of other products arriving late or out of stock. Just recently, I interviewed an author who told me that even though his book was out on the date of publication, there was a shortage in bookstores due to supply chain issues.
The Biden administration already has the economic and political imperative to rally bipartisan troops in support of supply chain reform. An executive order issued last February by Biden directing the National Security Council and the National Economic Council to study the vulnerability of U.S. supply chains resulted in a task force of more than a dozen federal agencies to to study the question and the product of their efforts is hardly slight. reading.
Their report, “Building Resilient Supply Chains, Revitalizing American Manufacturing, and Fostering Broad-Based Growth,” identifies four supply chains in need of reform: semiconductor manufacturing, high capacity batteries, critical minerals and materials, and pharmaceutical products. Another report will be released next month on energy and communications technologies.
These are all vulnerable supply chains, but the place to start should be health products and pharmaceuticals. We learned the hard way during the pandemic that basic protective gear like N95 masks, essential ventilators and personal protective equipment were scarce, and there were rumors that China was deliberately withholding them from the supply chain. global.
Andrew Mulcahy, senior healthcare policy researcher at RAND Corp., points out that many of the chemicals that US drug companies use in the manufacture of their drugs are made in China and India. Too often they are stuck with disruption around shipping due to labor shortages and other issues.
Bringing manufacturing back to America makes sense beyond meeting our healthcare needs and assuring Americans in the future that we will no longer be caught off guard by a future pandemic. It also creates well-paying jobs for American workers, often with better wages and benefits than those provided by the service industry.
Then there is the issue of the substandard conditions that workers in other countries endure to produce goods for the American market. Congress passed a bill requiring companies to prove that goods imported from China’s Xinjiang region were not produced by forced labor. The irony here is that many of the biggest companies such as Coca-Cola, Apple and Nike have opposed the bill, complaining that it would disrupt global supply chains, which is all the more reason for bring more manufacturing back to the United States.
The National Manufacturing Guard Act, passed with bipartisan support, invests $ 1 billion to mitigate future supply chain emergencies and it also sets up the Supply Chain Readiness Office to develop industrial partners who respond to crises with sufficient resources for the needs of the nation.
It’s no wonder Democrats and Republicans can unite on supply chain reform. What could be more American than finding jobs in the United States and rebuilding a manufacturing base that is currently weighing under its weight.
As Congress and the President plan for our future in manufacturing, they will need to invest in manufacturing training for workers whose jobs have disappeared in China, leaving too many workers in jobs that do not require the latest in skills. manufacturing, such as additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3D printing.
This election year is the perfect time to urge our elected officials to continue the ongoing work to reform the supply chain. No excuses, no delays and certainly no partisanship when it comes to encouraging companies to reinvest in manufacturing here and equip Americans with the know-how to produce essential products in the United States instead. than relying on distant supply chains and countries that do not have our best interests first. in mind.
Bob Kustra was president of Boise State University from 2003 to 2018. He hosts Reader’s Corner on Boise State Public Radio and is a regular columnist for the Idaho Statesman. He served two terms as lieutenant governor of Illinois and 10 years as state legislator.